Queen gives reluctant blessing to Harry and Meghan's plans

By Caroline Davies

The Queen has given her reluctant blessing to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to split their time between the UK and Canada, making it clear that though she had wanted the couple to remain as full-time working royals, she supported their decision.

After a historic summit of senior royals at Sandringham, details over exactly how Harry and Meghan will carve out the new “progressive” roles they seek remained unclear. The Queen has, however, agreed to a “period of transition” and stressed the couple remain “a valued part of my family”.

But there were “complex matters” still to resolve, and “more work to be done” as she said she wants final decisions to be reached in the coming days.

The Queen’s statement came after more than two hours of talks, which began against the backdrop of Prince William and Prince Harry attempting to stem rancorous speculation about their relationship in a joint statement.

Shortly after the Sandringham summit ended, the Queen issued a personal and informal statement in which she also struck a conciliatory tone.

“Today my family had very constructive discussions on the future of my grandson and his family.

“My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family. Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working members of the royal family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family”.

“Harry and Meghan have made clear that they do not want to be reliant on public funds in their new lives.

“It has therefore been agreed that there will be a period of transition in which the Sussexes will spend time in Canada and the UK.

“These are complex matters for my family to resolve, and there is some more work to be done, but I have asked for final decisions to be reached in the coming days”.

Monday’s unprecedented summit was attended by the Queen, Charles, William and Harry, and was the first time the senior royals had met since the Sussexes made their shock statement last Wednesday. Meghan was due to join by conference call from Canada, where she has been since Friday, with the couple’s son, Archie, and their two dogs.

The couple want to “step back” as senior royals, perform royal duties “as called upon”, continue their charitable work and, crucially, be allowed to earn a income.

The palace had been blindsided by the timing of the couple’s announcement, made without warning, which left family members feeling “disappointed” and “hurt” according to sources.

Ahead of Monday’s meeting Prince William and Prince Harry broke their silence over the royal crisis to condemn speculation about their relationship as “offensive and potentially harmful”

In a show of unity, the brothers jointly attacked a UK newspaper report, thought to be in the Times, though senior aides did not specify. A statement, issued through the princes’ respective offices, said: “Despite clear denials, a false story ran in a UK newspaper today speculating about the relationship between the Duke of Sussex and the Duke of Cambridge”.

“For brothers who care so deeply about the issues surrounding mental health, the use of such inflammatory language in this way is offensive and potentially harmful”.

Monday’s Times cited a source claiming Harry and Meghan regarded themselves as having been pushed away by what they saw as a “bullying” attitude from William. It reported the source, said to be close to the couple, as saying William was insufficiently welcoming to Meghan when she first started dating Harry. The source claimed that William’s attitude resulted from the competitive nature of his relationship with his younger brother.

The last year has seen repeated reports of a suspected rift between the brothers. Harry then appeared to confirm the speculation when he told an ITV documentary in October that the brothers, once so close, were on “different paths”.

It is unusual for palace aides to issue such vehement public denials on such personal matters. The fact they did so is indicative of just how sensitive feelings are within the family as they seek to reconcile differences and contain the crisis to prevent further damage to the monarchy. The palace is also desperate to avoid a repeat of any narrative such as the so-called “War of the Waleses”, which accompanied the breakdown of Charles and Diana’s marriage.

Final decisions to be made on the Sussex’s severance from full-time royal duties will have huge implications for the shape of the monarchy, and for the future roles of young royals including Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, the youngest of the Cambridge’s three children.

No details were given of issues discussed, but they were likely to have included how much time the couple intend to spend in Canada, where their son will be raised, what royal duties they will still perform, and what commercial activities would it be feasible for them to undertake in order to become self-funding yet not risk tarnishing the royal brand.

One possible blueprint regarding how the couple could approach commercial enterprises are guidelines devised almost 20 years ago after the Countess of Wessex was accused of cashing in on her royal status in a bid to win business for her PR firm from a “fake sheikh” undercover reporter.

Those rules advise royals to first consult the Lord Chamberlain – the most senior official of the royal household – before taking on any new business activity. They also require that anyone connected with a business activity “should be carefully briefed not to try to exploit , either deliberately or inadvertently, the member of the royal family’s position, associations or access.”

Both Edward, who worked in television, and Sophie, who worked in PR, stepped down from their jobs after aides accepted they worked in areas prone to accusations of exploitation.

As the summit was under way, there were unconfirmed reports in the Evening Standard that Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau had privately assured the Queen that Canada would pick up the bill for round-the-clock security for the couple while living there.